Stress of conscience and burnout among healthcare personnel working in residential care of older people
Sammanfattning: Background This thesis was part of the research programme ‘Stress of Conscience and Burnout among Healthcare Personnel in Elderly Care’ at Umeå University. Relationships have been found between stress of conscience, perception of conscience, burnout, and social support. No longitudinal studies investigating these relationships have been performed previously, thus it was not known how these relationships develop over time. Neither was it known how stress of conscience and other phenomena of importance might vary between organisations because no comparative studies have been performed. It seems important to organize the care of older people in such a way that healthcare personnel can stay healthy at their workplace, especially because the aging population is expected to grow. Studies have shown that stress of conscience is associated with the well being of healthcare personnel and the quality of care they provide. In order to develop measures against stress of conscience, it seems important to gain a deeper understanding of the aspects in daily work that can generate troubled conscience among healthcare personnel. Aim The overall aim of this thesis was to describe, compare, and investigate longitudinal relationships between stress of conscience, perceptions of conscience, burnout, social support and person-centred care among healthcare personnel working in two different organisations for residential care of older people. Furthermore, the aim was to deepen the understanding of some aspects of importance that generate troubled conscience at each of the two organisations. Based on the emerging knowledge from the research programme and the results from studies ? and ??, important aspects that can generate troubled conscience among healthcare personnel were shown to be working with guidelines and working during times of downsizing and reorganisation.Methods Studies ? and ?? took quantitative approaches with a longitudinal design (?) and a cross-sectional design (??), while studies ??? and IV were based on a qualitative approach. In study ?, the participants were healthcare personnel working in an organisation for residential care of older people with a public mode of operation located in a small town in northern Sweden (baseline n = 488, follow-up n = 277). In study ??, the participants were healthcare personnel working in two different organisations chosen to be as different from each other as possible regarding their characteristics. In this study, an organisation with a private mode of operation and located in a large city in the south of Sweden (n = 98) was compared to the baseline data from the publically run organisation from the small town in study ? (n = 488). In studies ??? (n = 8) and IV (n = 7), the participants were care providers working at the same public organisation (???) and private organisation (IV) as in studies ? and ??. Quantitative data were analysed using partial least square regression with jack-knife approximate t-tests, hierarchical cluster analysis with multiscale bootstrap resampling, descriptive statistics, hypotheses tests, effect size measures, and confidence intervals. Qualitative data were analysed using qualitative content analysis.Results The main results showed that the healthcare personnel reported higher levels of stress of conscience than have been reported in other studies. Perceiving one’s conscience as a burden, having high levels of emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation, and noticing disturbing conflicts between co-workers were positively associated with stress of conscience. Associations between stress of conscience and perceiving one’s conscience as a burden and burnout were similar among healthcare personnel despite the differences in the characteristics of the organisations they worked in. Women reported higher levels of stress of conscience and less social support from their co-workers compared to men. This thesis also provides new insights about how working according to guidelines and during times of downsizing and reorganisation can be burdensome issues for care providers and can generate troubled conscience. An overall understanding of care providers experiences of guidelines in daily work was revealed as struggling to do their best; prioritising between arcane guidelines while keeping the residents’ needs in the foreground. They described experiences that guidelines were coming from above, were controlling and not sufficiently anchored at their workplace. They also described guidelines as stealing time from residents, colliding with each other, lacking practical use and complicating care, and challenging their judgment. An overall understanding of care providers’ experiences of working during times of downsizing and reorganisation was revealed as perceiving oneself as pinioned in between current circumstances to provide care and what one’s conscience conveyed. They perceived loss of good management, changed working conditions as exhausting and activating their conscience. They also expressed how they perceived troubled conscience when working conditions decreased the quality of care.Conclusion The results is reflected on in relation to a nursing care model as it seems important to understand the results from a society- and organizational perspective as well as from an individual perspective. The results of the thesis show that it is important to provide healthcare personnel with opportunities to follow and express what their conscience tells them at their workplace in order to buffer the effects of stress of conscience. Support, knowledge, involvement, time, and additional resources are key issues that can help care providers to work more constructively with guidelines in their daily practice. The results show that in times of downsizing and reorganisation it is important to exercise leadership that promotes care providers’ feelings of involvement, security, and togetherness in order to relieve some of the healthcare personnel’s burdensome experiences. An overall understanding of the results is that it seems important to organize the residential care of older people in such a way that registered nurses and leaders are able to be present in healthcare personnel’s daily practice. Healthcare personnel need attendant and supportive leaders who can help them to solve various forms of work-related problems and to help them make priorities in the daily care of residents. This seems important regardless of whether the priorities are between guidelines and residents’ needs or a consequence of an increasingly stressful work environment during times of downsizing and reorganisation. Further studies are needed in order to investigate the importance of gender in relation to stress of conscience and if different kinds of support are needed for women than for men in order to buffer the effects of stress of conscience. Finally, more longitudinal multilevel studies are needed in order to investigate how organisations’ characteristics and organisational changes affect healthcare personnel’s levels of stress of conscience.
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